With a potential lockdown looming over the UK, there are many questions on how people will be able to continue with necessary everyday activities, including going to the doctor or the pharmacy to pick up repeat prescriptions.
Or to get medication for new conditions (not coronavirus) – from skin infections to anxiety brought on by the stress of it all and everything in-between.
And what if you need to see your GP on short notice but someone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms: is it still OK to go outside?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you.
We ask doctors and other medical professionals to answer all of these questions, so that you can rest easy while at home. Here is what they told us.
Can you still go to a pharmacy, GP or AE if you feel unwell?
If you have coronavirus symptoms – a high temperature and a new, continuous cough – the current advice is for you to stay at home for seven days.
Do not visit your GP, a pharmacy or a hospital, but use the NHS 111 coronavirus service instead (or call 111 if you can’t get online).
If it’s a life-threatening emergency, call 999.
Also, if you feel fine but someone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms, you need to stay indoors for 14 days from the day the first person starting exhibiting symptoms.
As of right now (20 March), there is no guidance on whether we will be allowed to go outside during a lockdown, however, other countries such as Italy are allowing people to visit the chemist and Belgium are even OK with people exercising, so long as it’s only with people in their own house.
‘If you feel unwell and not showing symptoms of corona, then GP appointments are still available but it’s best to call first and find out their protocol as many are trying to avoid the numbers of face-to-face patient consultations and therefore a telephone appointment or online conversation might be best for you,’ says Dr Ross Perry, GP and and medical director of Cosmedics.
And practice self-distancing at all times, if you do go outside.
Can you still pick up repeat prescriptions?
In theory, yes – if you are well enough to do so and not showing coronavirus symptoms (refer to above).
But it may be worth checking if your pharmacy can deliver your medication instead. Or sign up with an online pharmacy.
‘Many people will get their prescriptions from their local community pharmacy, in which case they should call the pharmacy and see if they have the facility in place to deliver,’ Shamir Patel, a pharmacist and the founder of online pharmacy, Chemist 4-U, tell us.
‘If not, patients can sign up with an online pharmacy.
‘It is a simple process where you register online; it takes just two minutes. Then, when you need medication, you request it as normal from your GP.
‘Once it’s signed off by the GP, the pharmacy will deal directly with them to get everything in place and send it to your door.
‘In cases where people can’t phone up their surgery or where their surgery doesn’t allow the pharmacy to request on behalf of the patient, they will need to use the NHS app to request their prescription.’
Do pharmacies do prescription delivery services
We’ve kind of already answered this one, but yes, some pharmacies do deliver.
Boots, for instance, do deliver if you request it online and there is no charge for repeat prescriptions. Lloyds Pharmacy use an online pharmacy service called Echo, and that is also free for repeat prescriptions.
Visit the individual pharmacy websites for instructions on how to organise this.
Can you still go to the pharmacy for other medications?
Dr Perry says: ‘Yes, although there’s a huge surge in demand for medication in pharmacies right now and they are all doing an incredible job in meeting the demands, however certain products are in short supply such as Calpol, paracetamol, thermometers and hand sanitisers.
‘Like the supermarkets, I advise to only buy what you and your family actually need without self-hoarding, allowing others to get what they really need throughout this difficult time.’
If you need items that are low in stock, it’s always worth chatting to friends or family in the area (who are feeling well) or ask a neighbour, as others might be able to share their goods.
Or, if you’re the one who with the stockpiling cupboard full of medications, perhaps consider sharing yours?
What to do if you need a prescription for a new condition
You can still go to the GP if you have a health issue that isn’t coronavirus-related (and, again, if you don’t have symptoms) – but you might have a hard time getting an appointment.
Call your GP or use their online service if they have one, as they might be able to prescribe medication for you that way instead.
Dr Perry says: ‘Additional checks are currently being made prior to a face-to-face appointment but they are still available and life must go on.’
Can someone else pick up your medication for you?
Yes, if you have told the pharmacy that they are doing so, in advance.
Dr Perry says: ‘Again, if you’re feeling unwell, then do not visit the pharmacy.
‘When necessary a repeat prescription can be delivered but if a family member, carer, or neighbour/friend can collect the medication in the first instance that’s advisable.
‘Repeat prescriptions are still available, but it’s best to order ahead if you’re running low.’
You can also call 111 for help or call your GP surgery for advice.
‘However, if it is an unrelated regular prescription you need then as long as a prescription is present along with written consent from you then they should be able to collect it while you are still unable to leave the house,’ says Dr Diana Gall from Doctors-4-U, adds.
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